[sixties-l] Re: sixties-l-Fourth of July

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (jab@tucradio.org)
Date: Tue Jul 04 2000 - 22:09:39 CUT

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    In view of our discussions on memorials and the flag, I believe today's
    ZNet Commentary is appropriate.

    A Fourth of July Commentary
    By Howard Zinn

    In this year 2000, I cannot comment more meaningfully on
    the Fourth of July than Frederick Douglass did when he was
    invited in 1852 to give an Independence Day address.

    He could not help thinking about the irony of the promise of
    the Declaration of Independence, of equality, life, liberty
    made by slaveowners, and how slavery was made legitimate
    in the writing of the Constitution after a victory for "freedom"
    over England. And his invitation to speak came just two years
    after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, committing the
    national government to return fugitives to slavery with all the
    force of the law.

    So it is fitting, at a time when police are exonerated in
    the killing of unarmed black men, when the electric chair
    and the gas chamber are used most often against people
    of color, that we refrain from celebration and instead listen
    to Douglass' sobering words:

    "Fellow citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am
    I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those
    I represent to do with your national independence?

    "Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural
    justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence,
    extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring
    our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess
    the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings
    resulting from your independence to us?

    "What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I
    answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days
    of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is
    the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your
    boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness,
    swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and
    heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted
    impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow
    mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and
    thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity,
    are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and
    hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would
    disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the
    earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are
    the people of these United States at this very hour.

    "Go and search wherever you will, roam through all the
    monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through
    South America, search out every abuse and when you have
    found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday
    practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for
    revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America
    reigns without a rival...."

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